Editor's Comment

Irrigation is the answer

THE continued erratic rainfall patterns in some parts of the country are a clear indication that Zambia should move away from over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
Reports coming from Southern and Central provinces are pointing to a looming famine due to poor rainfall in these areas. This is cause for serious concern and calls for decisive action.
Maize crops in some parts of Zambia have withered due to the absence of rainfall and excessive heat.
In some cases it is predicted that some crops are already beyond the redemption stage, meaning even if the rains resume, they cannot be revived.
This means there will be no harvest to talk about in the 2018/2019 farming season leading to food insecurity and famine.
While the drought seems acute this year, it has become a trend for the country to experience dry spells in some parts of the country and floods in other areas.
These are all effects of climate change, which not only Zambia but the whole world is grappling with.
Going by the trends, it is only wise for farmers to think of ways of averting the devastating effects of climate change such as drought.
Irrigation provides a viable alternative to rain-fed farming.
Zambia is blessed with natural water bodies such as rivers, streams and canals which must be harnessed for agricultural activities. Zambia accounts for 40 percent of southern Africa’s water bodies. This is a resource that Zambia must utilise for irrigation, especially that the rains are failing us.
The fact that the country is experiencing floods in some areas provides an opportunity for harvesting rainwater for irrigation of crop fields.
Zambia can draw lessons from countries like Botswana which, despite being mostly desert, takes advantage of the rainwater by harvesting and storing it for use later.
This, however, calls for massive investments in dams and irrigation technology.
It is commendable that Government under the leadership of President Lungu is cognisant of the need to invest in irrigation, hence embarking on a project to build dams across the country.
In December last year, President Lungu commissioned the Mwomboshi Dam in Chisamba, Central Province, that has a population of 14,517. Six thousand households are expected to benefit from the dam.
Mwomboshi is just one of the dams Government has set out to construct to manage water resources for agricultural production.
This is certainly the way to go. With the worsening poor rainfall patterns, Government must accelerate its efforts in constructing more dams and investing in irrigation technologies.
On irrigation, Israel and Egypt provide success stories which Zambia can learn from.
It is good that Zambia has already opened interaction with these countries and is actualising the need for maximisation of water resources.
While commercial farmers may have the financial muscle to set up their own irrigation, our heart goes out to small-scale farmers with little or no means.
These are the farmers worst hit by droughts because their fate is wholly in the hands of nature.
This is why it is critical for Government to build more dams to ensure that many more farmers are catered for.
The corporate world will also do well to come in and provide financial help to cooperatives to enable farmers to invest in irrigation systems.
In the wake of dry spells, farmers will also do well to diversify their crop production to include drought-resistant ones like cassava and millet.
The Zambia National Farmers Union should also work with other stakeholders to educate farmers on the alternative crops to grow to ensure that they reap from their sweat – come rain, come sun.

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